We have made a lot of friends here in the USA and although a lot of them are Military families, we have also made a lot of non-military friends. The military families have a tacit understanding of the type of life we have to lead and the factors that influence us but it can be hard to explain this type of lifestyle to non-military families. I didn’t really understand it until I was part of it, that’s for sure!
The perception of military families is often that we have it tough – we have to move around a lot, never feeling settled, and often have to deal with one parent being away for long periods of time. Our lives can be altered at the whim of the military and it can be hard to plan ahead in any meaningful way because, well, what is the point if it can all change?
When you put it like that I can see why people say they would never want to be in a military family. That’s not the whole story though, not by a long stretch.
Yes, we might have to move every few years and it isn’t much fun not knowing where you are going to be living this time next year. As I write this, we are waiting to find out where we will be posted to next so I am well aware of the frustrations associated with this. However, it also means you get to live in and explore lots of different places. If it wasn’t for the posting here, I very much doubt that we would ever have been brave enough to move continents but I am so glad we did.
It has been an amazing experience for the kids and for us, pandemic aside obviously! We have been able to experience a different way of life and we have had a much better quality of life here than we would have had in the alternative job Hubby was offered. That would have involved a very big commute whereas, even when he was in the office, here it was a less-than-10min drive. That means way more family time, which can only be a good thing.
We have also been able to learn loads about America – Big Wee Face could recite the Star Spangled Banner before I really knew the words and she learned all about the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence before she even got into Kindergarten. ‘Liberty’ or ‘Liberdee’ was also the first word she started saying in an American accent!
Pre-pandemic we were also able to travel around the East Coast of America and see a lot of fun places and do things that we just wouldn’t have been able to do/afford from the UK. The same is true of our next move – we don’t know for sure but it is likely we will end up on the south coast of England for our next posting. We will have a whole new set of places to visit and explore there and I am excited for that. We will also be closer to old friends that we hadn’t seen regularly, even when we lived in Scotland, so I am looking forward to spending more time with them. None of this travelling and making/reconnecting with friends in new places would have been possible without the Royal Navy forcing our hand.
Yes, it is also true that it can be very hard when one parent has to go away for extended periods of time, usually on deployment. That sucks…especially with kids. Thankfully, to date, we have only had to do this once. (see Go Big or Go Home) There have been a few weeks/a month here and there but only one 6month period away. That 6months was amongst the hardest times in my life and it was emotionally and physically draining.
I was very lucky and had friends and family to offer moral and practical support but it was still me that had the sole responsibility for keeping those two tiny humans alive and feeling loved and safe for that time. I really felt the weight of that responsibility and I struggled to get through it. It really affected the kids too because they were too little to really understand why Daddy was away.
It took all of us a long time to ‘get over’ that deployment. It took the best part of a year, if not longer, before every night or two away stopped triggering that same emotional response to his absence. (See The Emotional Rollercoaster that Never Ends). I had fewer tantrums about it than the kids but that didn’t mean I was happy about it!
But, and this is a big but, I am so proud of myself for getting through that deployment. I learned a lot about how strong I am as a woman and a mother – way stronger than I thought! I can be more decisive than I thought and am perfectly capable of handling two young kids on my own for 6months. It wasn’t fun and I would happily never do it again but I am sort of glad I did it in some weird sort of way. I proved I can and now it is a motivator to force myself to do things that might be challenging – I know that no matter how tough life is, we will get through it one way or another.
Oh, I also learned how much I love my husband. Don’t tell him that was an afterthought!
Finally, yes it can be frustrating to plan things just for it all to be turned upside down but if we don’t plan things how will we have anything to look forward to? If it’s one thing I have learned since I became part of a military family, it is how to roll with the punches. If plans change, we make new ones. It all works out in the end.
One final note…just because there are good sides to military life, it doesn’t mean that we don’t get to complain about the bad stuff sometimes. Military Spouses are often told, ‘you knew what you were signing up for!’ and it grates… We fell in love (presumably!) with the person we are married to, not the military lifestyle. We make the most of it and enjoy the advantages but we also get to have a grumble every now and again when one of those inevitable changes comes along. Give us a break, we just want a moan like everyone else!
If you don’t want to miss the next update/blog from the Military Spouse New House, you can subscribe here.
I promise not to bombard you with emails!